You know you might have reached a bit of a low when it’s a beautiful summer day and you’re inside watching a woman named Taffee shouting out a dumb answer on Family Feud. But at least that was my cue to shut off the TV and do something more useful – such as write this post – while my little one takes a cat nap on my lap.
After that I’ll plan on taking her out for another walk in the Chariot. Where should we go this time? Back to the bridge? Back to the canoe docks? I’m just about ready to write the guide to the best stroller walks in Banff.
Yep, that’s just the kind of week it has been.
Switchbacks on Pavement
We’re in full-on summer here in the Canadian Rockies. It’s a rare, precious time of year. So short, it can slip through your fingertips if you’re not careful. Normally, I have a don’t-waste-a-beautiful-day kind of policy. Sunshine on the weather network usually means camp, scramble, hike, climb, run or paddle, unless I’m terribly sick. A call for rain indicates only a change in expectation of what I’ll see while I’m out on the trail. But so far this summer, I’ve done more switchbacks on the pavement trying to keep my 4-month-old content (Keep moving or I’ll cry!) than I have up a mountainside. The mountains for me feel like a distant friend, like someone you see through a crowd but just can’t get to to say ‘hello’ (and it has been forever).
Don’t get me wrong: Maya and I have spent plenty of time outside. We go for walks every single day (sometimes two to three times per day), play in the park, go for short hikes, hang out by the water, and camp. Sometimes I’m able to take off for a quick run or paddle while someone else watches her (she’s not super keen on the bottle these days). And though we might not be scaling peaks together (yet) or covering lots of terrain (can’t wait to get her in the backpack carrier), I’m happy to know she is already developing a relationship with the outdoors. Things are just looking differently for me these days, and I’ll admit that sometimes it’s tough, especially when conditions are perfect, the skies are clear and high elevations are calling my name.
Something I have found reassuring lately is the concept of “intrinsic memory”. This article offers a great description (though it’s about letting children cry, not specifically about memory):
“Intrinsic memory encodes the emotional aspects of early experience, mostly in the prefrontal lobe of the brain. These emotional memories may last a lifetime. Without any recall of the events that originally encoded them, they serve as a template for how we perceive the world and how we react to later occurrences.”
So, if intrinsic memory is real, I believe that my efforts to introduce my little girl to the outdoors early on will create positive memories, and help her to nurture a good relationship with the natural world. I do this not to force her into a love for the outdoors for my own sake, but because I believe that nature is the greatest teacher and where we ultimately belong. So, even if this is a low-key summer for me, I feel motivated that everything I choose to do with Maya outside provides an important foundation for her as she gets to know this world. Not only that, but these experiences provide some great memories for her mom and dad, too (Remember when we ran out of diapers that first time we went camping?).
Eventually, I’ll also be able to spend a bit more time away from her and rekindle my personal relationship with the great outdoors. When days are tough, and when I feel that tiny pang of jealousy for my ‘past self’ that could head off on a scramble at a moment’s notice, I remind myself that someday that option will return. Until then, I’ll take the opportunity to see the world with a renewed sense of wonderment, and focus on helping Maya develop positive intrinsic memories of the outdoors.
(And when I hit the trail with my little Chatterbox, at least I won’t have to worry about surprising the wildlife.)